Results tagged ‘ Greenville Drive ’

On the Road: Living the Sweet Life in Greenville

To see all my posts from my May 8 visit to the Greenville Drive, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

This is Rich Wofford. On Sunday, May 8, Rich and his family attended a Greenville Drive game at Fluor Field so that he could serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

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The above photo was taken outside of an empty Fluor Field suite, where myself, Rich, his family, luxury suites executive chef Rob Hansen and food and beverage manager Kyle May convened for a few innings of food-based reverie.

I’ve mentioned Rich’s family twice already, so I’ll briefly jump ahead in the narrative in order to show a picture of the Wofford clan on the cusp of dessert. From left to right, we have Colton (3), Charlotte (4), Rob, Calum (six months) and Dovie.

046The Woffords live in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Rob works as an accountant for a non-profit organization, while Dovie has a full-time job and then some in her role as stay-at-home mom. (She takes care of “the rats,” as Rob lovingly put it.) This all took place on Mother’s Day, so a happy belated Mother’s Day to Dovie.

Rich is originally from Greenville. He met Dovie while living in Arizona, and moved back to South Carolina three years ago. Despite growing up in Atlanta Braves country, Rich is first and foremost a Boston Red Sox fan. He said that the Sox were his father’s favorite team, and though it was never pushed upon him he nonetheless became a fan during a time in his youth when the Braves “were in a stretch of terrible years.” Rich is also a big fan of Cal Ripken, and said that “Calum” is as close as he could get to convincing Dovie to name one of their children “Calvin.”

The Drive are a Red Sox affiliate, so Rich is particularly enamored with his hometown Minor League team. He said that he and the family attend about seven games a year, watching approximately three innings “before we go to the playground.”

Today, the playground could wait. There was eating to do.

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The above spread was laid out for Rich by Drive food guys Hansen and May. We’ll cover each one individually, but we’ll begin with something not included in the above picture:  The Hot Tot.

CaptureMay explained that the Hot Tot consisted of “salsa, tater tot and shredded cheese on top of a hot dog.” The Hot Tot is among a rotating cast of specialty dogs that the Drive sell on the concourse.

Have at it, Rich.

“It’s a good ballpark hot dog,” said Rich. “There’s not a lot of hot in the tot, but the taters add a nice crunch on the top.”

Charlotte then took a bite.

“It’s good!” she said. “I kind of like the spice.”

I then took the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with Charlotte, a self-assured and witty four-year-old whom Rich has already indoctrinated into Red Sox fandom.
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Charlotte’s favorite color is pink and her favorite team is (surprise) the Red Sox. After answering these queries she momentarily got distracted by a talking dog video on the scoreboard, but quickly regrouped. The talking dog video had reminded her of her pets — Dribbles the hamster and Dudley the dog — though, unfortunately, “all of them died.” She then went on to tell me that her favorite player is Dustin Pedroia and that if she had all the money in the world she’d buy a Belle dress (Belle being a Disney princess character).

Our interview concluded with me asking Charlotte “What’s the funniest thing that ever happened in your life?” She had an answer at the ready:

“When Daddy said ‘Pull my finger!'”

Rich broke out into peals of embarrassed laughter and immediately asked that this remark be stricken from the record. However, being a brave and honest man, he later consented to have his daughter’s delighted account of his finger-pulling request documented within the public sphere.

Rich Wofford: Finger pullee, American hero

Rich Wofford: Finger pullee, American hero

Anyhow, we were talking about the Drive’s ballpark food options.

This “Triple Crown” slider platter — available in the 500 Club restaurant/bar/group area — was constructed with aplomb. From left to right we have (if my notes are correct) the “Chef”, the “Big Hurt” and the “Sultan of Swat.”

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The Chef, consisting of bacon, cheese and green peppers, was Rich’s favorite. He said that it was an “excellent burger” because the “meat was perfect” and overall it was an excellent combination of ingredients. The Big Hurt — topped with fried jalapenos — got lower marks because it was “spicy, very spicy, to the point where I don’t taste the burger.”

The Sultan of Swat, topped with fried green tomatoes, red onions and pimento cheese, was the most interesting looking of the bunch.

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Rich was underwhelmed, however.

“There was lots of onion taste, and that’s pretty much it on that one.”

Next, we classed up the joint by tasting the seared tuna (available at the suite level). The tuna, spiced up with a creole-style seasoning, was served atop a bed of greens and accompanied by a sesame ginger sauce and a jicama slaw.

037“If you’re not familiar with jicama, it’s a vegetable kind of like an unripe pear. Pretty mild as far as texture goes,” explained Hansen. “[The slaw] has yellow pepper, red pepper, fresh mint and strawberry.”

I probably ate more of the tuna than anybody. In my notes it says that there is a “Nice spice on the edges. The tuna is tender and the flavor radiates outward.”

Rich said that the tuna was “not what I’d expect to eat at a ballpark, but if I found it I’d eat it. The [sesame ginger] sauce has a nice heat that goes away quickly.”

From the perspective of the Wofford family, the best was most definitely saved for last: Xangos.

038Xangos is (are?) fried cheesecake. The Drive’s version, a “sweet” level specialty, is dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a chocolate dipping sauce. It got a 100% Wofford approval rating, summed up by Rich’s assessment that “I don’t know how to describe it other than ‘perfect.'” It even put a momentary stop to Calum’s crying, leading Rich to deem it a “baby husher.”

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Xangos: Wofford family tested, Wofford family approved

The dessert based reverie could only last so long, as Calum, though no longer crying, summarily threw up on Rich.. Assessing himself as his family prepared for departure, he noted “This would definitely be the ‘after’ picture. I’m covered in chocolate sauce and baby barf.”

The Wofford family then left the suite, moving on to their far more familiar playground environment. There, the kids would find swings to swing upon, slides to slide upon and, hopefully, fingers to pull upon.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Moms, Dogs and Scouts in Greenville

To see all my posts from my May 8 visit to the Greenville Drive, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

The first game I saw on this road trip, in Greensboro, was actually a pair of games. After a rainout the night before, the Grasshoppers and visiting Columbia Fireflies played a pair of seven-inning doubleheaders. The second game I saw, in Durham, went 11 innings before the Bulls finally dispatched the visiting Norfolk Tides. The third game I saw, in Greenville, was yet again a deviation from the normal.

After a power outage the night before, the Greenville Drive and visiting Columbia Fireflies (yes, them again) had been forced to suspend the game in the fifth inning. Therefore, my Sunday afternoon at Greenville’s Fluor Field now consisted of the completion of that suspended game, at 2 p.m., followed by a seven-inning game at the regularly scheduled time of 4 p.m. You’ve gotta say this for Minor League Baseball: it always keeps you on your toes.

I arrived in Greenville’s West End neighborhood in the early afternoon, changed clothes in a parking garage (as I am wont to do), and then made my way to the ballpark. The short walk over began with an idyllic stroll along the Reedy River, within Falls Park.

002The walk wasn’t all idyllic, however. There’s a lot of development going on in this area as well.

003Another 10 minutes or so later, I obtained my first view of Fluor Field. I was on the wrong side of the tracks.

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Fluor Field is a largely brick edifice, as are the buildings that surround it. The architecture in this area is reminiscent of the textile mills that used to dominate the landscape.

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006I last visited Fluor Field in 2010, as the final stop on one of my very first road trips. A game wasn’t even taking place, but I stopped at the park and got a tour from then-general manager Mike deMaine. From an article on said tour:

Fluor Field, located in Greenville’s West End district, is a bona fide “mini-Fenway.” The facility, which opened in 2006, boasts its own “Green Monster” and “Pesky Pole.” The ballpark dimensions are exactly the same, and a manual scoreboard is located along the left-field wall. Fluor Field’s Fenway inspirations came about not just because of the parent club but also as a matter of practicality.

“The piece of land our owners had to work with is small as compared to other stadiums, so a key issue was to find unique ways to maximize our space,” said deMaine. “There’s no better example of a large stadium within a small footprint than Fenway, so with our affiliation changing [to Boston], it was an easy tie-in.”

I don’t have much more to add about the ballpark, or anything else, when it comes my most recent appearance at Fluor Field. The bulk of my afternoon was spent wandering alone on the concourse, looking (in vain) for something that might translate into a story. The Drive were a very different experience than the other six teams I visited on this trip, and from my recent (and not so-recent) ballpark visits in general. Very hands-off.

I entered Fluor Field just as the completion of the suspended game was underway. There was hardly anyone in the ballpark yet, given that it was two hours prior to the afternoon’s regularly-scheduled contest. It felt like a high school game.

This day-glo Columbia Firefly fan really stood out in the crowd. In this particular section, he was the crowd.

IMG_1198It was Mother’s Day, and the team had procured 1000 carnations to give out to women as they entered all the ballpark. (I assume that most of the women who got carnations were mothers, but it’s not like anyone was checking IDs.) The team’s original plan was to have the players give out the carnations, but the necessity of completing the suspended game made that an impossibility.

IMG_1199I entered the ballpark at the Main St. entrance, in the left field corner. In the above photo, fans were entering via the Field St. entrance down the first base line. This entrance is directly across from the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, which is located in a modest brick home where Shoeless Joe spent the last 11 years of his life. I visited the museum during my 2010 Greenville cameo, and you can read about that HERE.

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Photo from visitgreeneville.com

The museum wasn’t open on this Sunday afternoon; nor was this concourse Chick-fil-A. This is in accordance with company policy.

012Que’s BBQ and Carrera Cantina were open for business, however.

013It was a beautiful day for the completion of a suspended contest, here at this self-described “mini-Fenway.” (The Drive are the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.) The building beyond left field houses retail and office space on the left and residential units on the right.

014I think I took this scoreboard picture because “Basabe” shares more letters with “baseball” than any other player surname I can think of.

017It wasn’t just Mother’s Day; it was also “Bark in the Park.” Volunteers from the Greenville Humane Society were on hand with a small but adorable cadre of adoptable canines.

023Who wants a puppy? Who wants one?!

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His name is Chewy

As the dogs — and people — accumulated on the concourse, the Fireflies put the finishing touches on 13-3 victory. They score was only 5-2 when play resumed, but the Fireflies made up for the previous day’s power outage by scoring two runs in the sixth and then six more in the seventh.

As the players retreated to their respective dugouts for a between-game break, mascot Reedy Rip-It led a veritable army of local Girl Scout troops in a warning track parade.

029The parade route included a scenic stroll through a dusty outdoor storage area.

030When you’ve got a bunch of dogs in the ballpark and a bunch of Girl Scouts, then it’s a pretty likely scenario that you’re going to see Girl Scouts walking dogs. The sight of such a thing prompted distracted one Drive outfielder to the extent that he neglected a pregame handshake ritual.

031In short order, the afternoon’s regularly-scheduled ballgame began.

033It was 80 degrees and sunny, but that didn’t stop this intrepid team photographer from coming to the game in an all-black outfit topped off by a black knit cap.

034After spending several innings with my designated eater and his family — that will be chronicled in the following post — I returned to the concourse and came face-to-face with mascot Reedy Rip’It.

049After spending some time on the dugout…

051Reedy led the crowd in a rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”

Shortly thereafter, the Drive put the finishing touches on a 5-4 victory over Columbia. The seven-inning contest took two hours and 17 minutes to play. It then took what seemed like another two hours and 17 minutes for all the kids in attendance to run the bases.

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While the youth ran in circles, I took the time to write and disseminate yet another Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

And that, my friends, was how I spent my afternoon at Fluor Field. I would have written more about Greenville, but I lacked the….initiative.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Yesterday Afternoon: Greenville Drive, May 8, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 8: Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive (Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)

Opponent: Columbia Fireflies, 2:00 completion of Saturday’s suspended game followed by seven-inning game at 4:40

Fluor Field, from the outside: (This building, part box office and team store, is located across from the stadium. Close enough)

006Fluor Field, from within: 

IMG_1204Culinary Creation: Fried cheesecake dusted with cinnamon sugar, with chocolate dipping sauce

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Ballpark character: Available for adoption

023At random: Carnations for moms on Mother’s Day

IMG_1199Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

May 9: Charleston RiverDogs

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: The Drive Ends In Greenville

drive logo.gifWelcome to the final installment of my 2010 “Southern Swing”. Being on the road was a most gratifying experience, and I hope to do it again as soon as possible. If you enjoyed the content that I provided, then please make this sentiment known within the all-important court of public opinion.

After visiting the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum on Sunday, I sauntered across the street to Fluor Field (no one walks in South Carolina — they saunter). This facility, built in 2006, boasts an all-brick exterior that fits well with the rest of the neighborhood (before going any further, let me note that a complementary Greenville article can be found HERE). 

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I’d like to back up my above claim by showing pictures from “the rest of the neighborhood”, an area that serves as a link to Greenville’s textile mill past. Here’s one of the many churches that dot the area:

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I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use some brain tonic about now:

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The team’s ticket office/team store is located in a separate building, a structure that at one time served as one of South Carolina’s first firehouses:

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The industrial past is also illuminated by the (still-active) train tracks that run outside of the building.

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But once stepping inside, thoughts of Fenway take over:

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The building beyond the left field wall offers rooftop seating, and the condominium portion of the structure (on the right) offers porches that look out onto the field.

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The 500 Club party area in right field:

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Drive general manager Mike deMaine provided me with a behind-the-scenes look at the facility.

The home clubhouse:

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Smaller visitor digs:

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Groundskeeper’s Shed:

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The high-tech production room, where masterpieces such as THIS are churned out on a regular basis.

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The Suite Life, on the inside and out:

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Upper Deck Party Area:

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And, finally, the Dugout Suite. deMain wanted to make clear that the Drive were the first team to feature such a thing, contrary to the claims of the Visalia Rawhide (“We’re first and best”, he said). I am happy to provoke a Dugout Suite war of words, so if Visalia or any neglected third parties would like to respond then I’m all ears.

The suite in question is available for group rentals, and features a private food and beverage area as well as a lounge with views of the Drive’s hitting cage.

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As the pictures above would indicate, I didn’t actually see a game at Fluor Field. Sunday’s matinee contest began at 4, and my flight from the Greenville/Spartanburg airport was scheduled to leave at 5:30.

So, after my stadium tour, I climbed into my rented Mercedes-Benz with Texas plates for what would be the last time and proceeded to the airport (stopping on the way for a pouch of microwavable boiled peanuts).

While I wouldn’t call the Southern Swing “fun” (the schedule was fairly relentless and I am far too prone to bouts of anxiety), it was deeply rewarding and I am very glad I got the chance to do it. Thanks for reading, and here’s to many more Minor League road trips!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

On The Road: The Banned Plays On In Greenville

Shoeless_museumsign.JPGA series of plane trips, bus rides, and subway jaunts on Sunday evening eventually returned me to the comforting embrace of New York City.

But the “Southern Swing” is not done! I’ve got more material, and where there is material there is hope. Yesterday in Greenville, SC I was able to visit the city’s formidable 1-2 baseball punch: The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Fluor Field. Although not affiliated with one another, these two national pastime establishments are located on opposite sides of the same street and well worth visiting.

Today’s post — and article! — will focus on the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, while tomorrow theShoeless_exteriorposter.JPG “Southern Swing” will finally wrap up with a tour of Fluor Field.

So, the first thing you need to know about Shoeless Joe is that he was raised in Greenville and later returned to the city. And the Museum is located in the blacklisted star’s former home — a brick structure that was chopped in half, re-located, renovated and refurbished.

Of course, this effort bears considerable similarity to the Mobile BayBears’ “Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum.” Perhaps the re-location of old baseball player domiciles will one day be a common practice around baseball; at the very least it would make a good reality show.

The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum is an all-volunteer effort spearheaded by Arlene Marcley, who first became interested in Jackson after fielding numerous requests related to him while working in the Greenville mayor’s office. Currently, the museum is only officially open from 10-2 on Saturdays, but tours are available on request and readily accommodated. 

I received one such tour late Sunday morning, which I will now try to convey to you via copious photo documentation.

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The entire house is filled with Jackson memorabilia and period details (Jackson lived in the house with his wife from 1940 until his death in 1951).

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The whistle from the old Brandon textile mill. Young Joe worked at the mill, and played for the company’s baseball team. 

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The doors of the liquor store that Joe ran in Greenville:

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The kitchen is equipped with vintage appliances:

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The homey study is lined with baseball books — donated by museum supporters nationwide.

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And, as mentioned before — all of this is located across the street from Fluor Field (home of the Greenville Drive). I’ll have more on that beautiful structure tomorrow — you’d have to watch Shaquille O’Neal practice free throws in order to see more bricks in one place!

Leaving o
n a high note, as always.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

New Video Tuesday

While the title of this post would lead you to believe that “New Video Tuesday” is a recurring feature, I assure you that it is not. Nor will it be.

You see, I am in the middle of composing a post of much greater substance — a post that will not be completed until tomorrow at the earliest. But I didn’t want this blog to lay dormant until that moment of completion occurs. That would result in a level of stagnancy that is thoroughly intolerable in this, the information age.

After all, content is content is content. Thus, “New Video Tuesday”:

Flame-throwing Cardinals prospect Casey Mulligan is doing very well on the mound this season. But, as the video shows, he’s even more talented as a dancer (thanks to Jonathan Mayo for the heads-up):
 

Of course, this marks the second “dancing during a rain delay” video I have posted this season. In case you have forgotten the first, here it is yet again:

Next, we have yet another immaculately produced parody video from the Greenville Drive. These guys are operating on an advanced level:
 

Of course, this marks the second “Greenville Drive Parody video” I
have posted this season. In case you have forgotten the first, here it
is yet again:

For the record, this remains my favorite Minor League parody video of all time:

Seriously, of the 3000 views that video currently has, about 150 can be attributed to me.

Until tomorrow, I remain,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Playing Catch-Up On The Road, Vol. 3

Hello from Brew’d Awakening coffee shop in Lowell, MA. My time in this
lovely city has been very enjoyable — Lowell has a very interesting
and deep-rooted history, and as a result has a ton of character.
There’s nothing cookie-cutter about this place.

I’ll be writing
much more about my time in Lowell upon my return to the comforting
embrace of New York City. For now, let me cherry-pick from my
list of “potential blog topics” in order to present you with a post of
unparalleled randomness.

I ran into Tri-City ValleyCats assistant
general manager Vic Christopher at yesterday’s Spinners game, which
reminds me that I’ve been meaning to give his blog a “shout-out”. So,
check it out HERE. I think this picture, lifted from the blog, says a
lot about the ValleyCats experience:

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Ridiculousness comes in all forms in the Minor Leagues, textually as well as visually. Here’s an excerpt from a press release that was sent out last week by the Akron Aeros:

[T]hree ticketing associates in their first
seasons of professional baseball have gained a new perspective on
Mother Nature. Scott Campbell, Cody Demster and John Golz were all
recently flooded out of their apartment complex and are now taking up
temporary shelter in the Chapel Hill Towers assisted living center.

One
day after work, the three close friends noticed some water seeping in
through the bathroom at their apartment in Cuyahoga Falls. Returning
home from work at Canal Park the next evening, they discovered more
than an inch of water soaking through the bathroom and entering the
bedrooms. Forced to evacuate immediately from their apartment, the trio
of co-workers collected what they could and piled the rest in their
living room, as they received a promised of a new place to live for the
next week.

They would soon learn that their new home was an
assisted living center just two miles down the road from their previous
quarters. While their previous abode had featured two bedrooms and two
bathrooms in a comfortable apartment for three grown men, their new
residence is a makeshift break room for the center’s employees. A
sign stating “STOP We Have Guests for Three Days” gives the
associates a modicum of privacy, although their new quarters have just
one bedroom and no carpeting. The three all agreed that their new
residence represents a relatively quaint living style, although there
is ??no shortage of new people to meet, said Cody with a smile
.

Yes, this was a PRESS RELEASE. Read the whole thing here. I love that this currently resides at the top of the team’s news page. 

Finally, anybody who knows me is aware that nothing is more near and dear to my heart than parody. Here’s an impressive one put together by the Greenville Drive, touting a superior gameday transportation option (thanks to Eric Long for the heads-up).
 

I’ll be back with more dispatches from the road in the near future. Until then I am benjamin.hill@mlb.com